After a slow start by the Lady Lions and a back-and-forth second half, a 62-56 victory over Wichita State propelled the Lady Lions into the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Penn Sate took an early 7-2 lead but could not hold onto the momentum for most of the first half. The Shockers found a rhythm and went on a 14-0 run with 9:50 left in the half to take a 16-7 lead. After closing out the half on a 6-2 run, Wichita State went in with a 30-25 lead.
The Lady Lions came into the second half fired up and looking like a completely different team, starting out an a 17-0 tear. Arielle Edwards started the run with two consecutive layups, followed by a three point play from Maggie Lucas and Talia East. East and Lucas scored two more baskets apiece before Lucas capped off the run with a three, bringing the score to 42-30 in favor of the Lady Lions.
The Shockers finally got on the board eight minutes into the half with a three and cut the Lady Lions lead to nine. The two teams exchanged sides for the next five minutes, but Penn State maintained a 48-40 lead. That lead would eventually be cut to 2 at 56-54 with two minutes to play.
After a foul on a shot from East, Penn State increased its lead to four points. Wichita State made two crucial free throws to bring it back to a one possession game with 1:18 left in the game.
East converted on another layup at the rim and was fouled, which pushed the Lions lead back up to four, 60-56. After a missed the free throw, Penn State’s Kaliyah Mitchell grabbed the rebound and allowed the Lady Lions to keep possession. Lucas was then fouled and knocked down both attempts to seal the 62-56 victory.
“Our focus all along has been that the NCAA Tournament is tough,” head coach Coquese Washington said after the game. “The games are tough and every round gets tougher. You have to be ready for battles. You have to be prepared. Seeding does not matter. Where you play does not matter. You just have to understand that it is going to be tough. That is the mentality that we have. We are expecting another tough game on Tuesday.”
The Lady Lions play Florida at home in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Tuesday night.